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Posts Tagged ‘Future Generations’

A bill of rights for the next generation: What do you think?

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

Here’s a new idea which we are starting to think about.  Would it be useful, what might it contain and how could we make it work? We would welcome your opinion.

A Bill of Rights for Future Generations.

The Early Action Task Force is working in several ways to create the conditions, the understanding and the resources for early action to thrive. Our work is very practical. It is about doing what we can in the prevailing context – political, financial, cultural and legislative.  We wouldn’t want to abandon this pragmatic and practical approach but we are also thinking about opening up a new front:

The problem we want to solve:

We have a settled government with a political narrative that is dominated by Brexit. There are glimpses of other interests such as the PMs Shared Society speech but these are infrequent and insubstantial.

The opposition has very little influence.

It seems unlikely that either of the above will change before the next general election.

In this stasis we can support front line work and help to influence individual policies but building a society where problems are routinely prevented is an ambitious long term goal which will not be reached solely with the small pragmatic steps. We need to also think much harder about how we radically influence the direction of travel. We need to find a way of moving the conversation on to the big vision.

A bill of rights for the next generation.

All political parties need to offer a future that is better than the past but need and capacity are on irreconcilable trajectories. Likewise consumption and sustainability. Food banks, student loans, generation rent, trolleys in A and E, people sleeping on the streets – in different ways these are all symbols of a society that is moving backwards, not forwards. There is a political imperative, as well as a social, economic and moral obligation, for politicians to find a way of promising a better future, not as a rhetorical aspiration, but as a set of rights with a plausible plan for delivering them.

Suppose we began to talk about a Bill of Rights for Future Generations to fundamentally change how government thinks and behaves. Suppose we imagine the Bill as the set piece of the first Queens speech from the next government in three years’ time. It would be the world’s most far sighted and ambitious programme for ensuring a better future for our children.

Some of the ideas which we have discussed regularly on this blog would have a place (Ten year planning, transition goals, an Office for Future Generations, early action testing, a Next Generation Investment fund etc) but, to justify the billing it would need to be significantly more ambitious.

Leading that conversation

Suppose we think of this goal as a way of inspiring a different conversation over the course of the next few years.  The big objective would be extraordinary. Some more limited gains on the way would be worthwhile.

How would it be framed and what would it contain?

Please post your comments below in the usual way or mail me directly at david.robinson@community-links.org

Wales: Good reasons to be hopeful

Monday, June 13th, 2016

I met Sophie Howe – the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales – last week. Sophie started work at the helm of the newly minted Commission 4 months ago. I had been looking forward to our meeting for some time. The Act which created the Commission had been in gestation from the earliest days of the Task Force in 2011. Now the powers and responsibilities of the new Commissioner are wider and probably stronger than any of the small number of offices elsewhere in the world that are at all comparable.

Peter Davies previously held a much more limited role as the Commissioner for Sustainable Futures. He was a prime mover in the development of the legislation which created the Future Generations Commission and has been generous in his acknowledgement of the influence of the Early Action Task Force: “The work of the Early Action Task Force has been really influential in the development of the Well – being of Future Generations Act. The concept of early action should be at the heart of sustainable development. The Triple Dividend perfectly captured the essence of this approach and brought much needed focus on action that can take place now, preventing long term consequences and setting a pathway for a more sustainable future.”

Five “ways of working” were outlined in the act. Public bodies need to be demonstrating these in order to show that they applying the sustainable development principle. In essence it is the Commissioners job to ensure that they are and to help them do it well

These “ways of working” are intended to “help us work together better, avoid repeating past mistakes and tackle some of the long term challenges that we are facing”:

1) Long term: The importance of balancing short term needs with the need to safe guard the ability to also meet long term needs

2) Prevention: How acting to prevent problems occurring or getting worse may help public bodies to meet their objectives.

3) Integration: Considering how the public bodies well-being objectives may impact upon each of the well-being goals, on their objectives, or on the objectives of other public bodies.

4) Collaboration: Acting in collaboration with any other person (or different parts of the body itself) that could help the body to meet its well – being objectives.

5) Involvement: The importance of involving people with an interest in achieving the well-being goals and ensuring that those people reflect the diversity of the area which the body serves.”

It would be understandable if many of the leaders of those public bodies, and the list that are named in the act is very comprehensive, felt dispirited by a fresh set of demands on staff teams and departmental budgets that are, almost invariably, smaller now than they were when the Senedd first began to talk about the bill. However I spoke to a mainly public sector audience at the Equality and Human Rights Exchange Annual Conference in Mid Wales earlier in the day and, in the margins of my contribution, discovered that delegates were well informed about the purpose and the requirements of the act and almost unanimously enthusiastic. One told me that the act was “the most positive development in public services since devolution” and another that it was “the boldest thing that the Welsh government has ever done.” Ruth Marks CEO of the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, who I met on Wednesday, had been similarly affirmative.

Of course at the moment everyone was talking about the potential. It will be at least two years before anyone can begin to consider consequences but appetites were keen

The government guidance note answers its own question “Why do we need this law?” with this statement:

“Wales faces a number of challenges now and in the future, such as climate change, poverty, health inequalities and jobs and growth. To tackle these we need to work together. To give our children and grandchildren a good quality of life we need to think about how the decisions we make now will impact them. This law will make sure that our public sector does this”.

It is an ambitious objective and I left Cardiff conscious of the burden of expectation now resting on the Commission but also, and most importantly, impressed by the level of commitment on all sides. There are good reasons to be hopeful.